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Award-winning Essay Shows Love of Teaching

A dedicated teaching assistant and researcher in the sociology Ph.D. program, Paige Gabriel signed on to assist Dr. Sheldon Ekland-Olson in the “Life and Death Decisions” Signature Course.

“I requested “Life and Death Decisions” for a couple semesters before being assigned there,” Gabriel wrote in her reflection essay. “The professor, Dr. Ekland-Olson, in addition to doing really interesting research, is known for his teaching abilities. I wanted to see how he teaches his classes, how he gets the students to engage with the material, and how he makes a difficult topic like “Life and Death Decisions” approachable to students.”

Gabriel’s thoughtful essay on her experience as a TA earned her the 2014 Signature Course Interdisciplinary Teaching Award.

Critical Thinking and Confidence

Paige GabrielEvery undergraduate at UT takes a Signature Course during his or her first year on campus. These interdisciplinary courses help students transition to college-level academics.

Patty Micks, senior program coordinator for the Signature Course program, said, “My hope for the graduate students serving as Signature Course TAs is that they will grow as teachers and learn about themselves and their disciplines in ways they hadn’t before.”

Gabriel led three discussion sections each week to develop students’ critical thinking skills and confidence in discussing their ideas in small groups.

“The course topic covered some emotionally difficult topics, like assisted suicide, capital punishment, abortion, genocide, and torture,” Gabriel wrote. “In my past experien